It’s the chant that brought Trump to presidency: “Build the wall! Build the wall! Build the wall!”
Throughout his campaign, Trump promised he was going to build a wall on the border of Mexico and the U.S. to prevent people from illegally immigrating to the United States. In Trump’s speech given on August 31, 2016 at a rally in Phoenix, he goes through many of the steps in his plan to prevent illegal immigration, which he claims is costing America “$113 billion dollars a year.” Immediately after Trump made his announcement about his wall, people questioned the need for one. A wall? What good would a wall do?
I decided to look deeper and see if a wall along the border of Mexico and America will actually prevent illegal immigration.
According to Christopher Manion, who served as staff firector of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere Affairs during the Reagan Administration, in an opinion article published on Breitbart, a wall will do a great deal in preventing illegal immigration. Manion claims many countries use walls to protect their borders. The article also uses individuals as examples to prove the effectiveness of walls. Many people in Mexico build walls around their property as well as “liberals” in America – famous people who want protection around their home. Despite all these claims, Manion cited no sources and offered no links within his column.
To see if Manion’s argument holds true, I Googled “countries with walls on their borders.” A CNN article cites a study performed by Ruben Andersson, who researches the migration and the effectiveness of walls across different countries. According to Andersson, walls are ineffective for many reasons. For one, walls are often built for political reasons to show the government is taking action against migration. Walls do more for a country’s appearance than actually prevent migration.
Andersson also states, “Where there’s a wall, there’s a way.” In other words, walls don’t stop people from climbing over and entering the country on the other side. The fence along Spain and Morrocco is a double fence with anti-climbing mesh and patrolled by guards. Even with this barrier, several thousands of migrants from Arab and African countries cross the fences each year. Fences can cause people to get creative and enter borders using more dramatic methods, such as collective “runs” at fences along borders. This method of entry occurred frequently in the Spanish North African enclaves of Ceuta and Mellilla in 2013 and 2014.
At this point, I went back to In the transcript of Trump’s speech I read. Published by LA Times, there were annotations throughout written by journalists of the publication as well as readers. I clicked on the annotation on “wall” and read that 650 miles of fencing already exist along the 2,000 mile stretch of the southwest border, according to LA Times reporter Cindy Carcamo. Carcamo said the 2,000 mile border has never been more secure with “hi-tech cameras, sensors and blimps. Also, never has there been more Border Patrol agents. Currently, there are an estimated 21,000 Border Patrol agents on the ground.”
I did not previously know there were already existing fences along the border of the U.S. and Mexico. To learn more about the walls already at the border, I found an article published in Time that goes into detail about where the 400,000 apprehensions of immigrants occurred at the border and what percentage of that location has wall. From what I could see, there was no correlation between the wall and the number of people who were apprehended at the border. According to Jason De León, an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Michigan, as soon as security is increased on one place at the border, it’s a “balloon effect.” As soon as one area has increased security, the flow of people will move to another area.
While reading this article, I was reminded of a video I saw on Adam Ruins Everything, a fact-checking show on TruTV. The show said about 27% to 40% of undocumented immigrants enter the country via plane, making the wall useless in those scenarios. The upper left corner showed the fact came from Politifact in 2015. I turned to Google to find the source.
I easily found the article by typing “politifact undocumented immigration 2015” into Google. The article fact-checked the statistic after Jorge Ramos, a news anchor on Univision and Fusion, gave his argument for why a wall along the border of the U.S. and Mexico is a bad idea. Politifact found that 40% of undocumented immigrants enter the country legally and overstay their visa, according to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. However, only an estimated 27% of those enter by plane, which Politifact determined after speaking to many experts in the field. All of them could only offer educated guesses.
Adam Ruins Everything also said the number of people who are immigrating dropped within the last few years and is the lowest it has been in a while. The show cited they got the fact from Border Control statistics from 2015, but I could not find that source on Google. Instead, I found a Politifact article fact-checking Donald Trump’s claim that illegal immigration is the lowest it has been in 17 years. The article found that statement to be true. Immigration peaked in 2000 at 1.6 million people apprehended at the border that year. Immigration began to decline in 2008 when the recession hit and has been declining ever since. In March 2017, there were only 12,913 apprehensions at the border, which is the lowest number of apprehensions in 17 years.
Overall, most of the sources I found seemed to be against building the wall along the border of the U.S. and Mexico, or at least offered facts that supported not building the wall. Even when I searched for materials in support of the wall, it was hard to find ones that supported their arguments with facts. Though I can’t concretely fact check Trump’s statement that a wall will prevent illegal immigration because there is no wall to currently study, I gathered the general consensus of the American people to be that no, a wall will not work.